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My seven-week anniversary of living in Paris is just days away, and it’s right about the time when my existence here feels more established. And so I will bestow you with some highlights and favourite things.
The first is an inexhaustible highlight; it regenerates day after day (depending on the weather), and much like the renewable resource of bio-fuel that’s used to power at least some of the city buses in the greater Toronto area (as far as I can remember since Toronto seems a distant memory), it won’t run out until the earth is destroyed by an asteroid, and the human race along with it.
It’s sunsets in Paris by the river.
The sun sets at a weirdly late hour in Paris (what is this, Iceland?), but I don’t mind, because to me it equals better odds of making it in time for the view. One evening, as I was leaning against the bridge, watching the sun do its’ disappearing dance, I totally lost track of time. It was beautiful and nearly tear-evoking (if only I wasn’t made of stone…just kidding I’m like a wailing infant most times), and if not for my peripheral vision which alerted me to a strange man standing beside me and giving me hungry eyes, I’m sure I would’ve stayed for a twilight view. Maybe next time.
Another highlight (though much less gorgeous as it involves two sweaty middle-aged men) occurred when two French businessmen from outside of Paris asked me for subway directions. In French. And I actually knew where they needed to go. And I knew exactly how to say it. In French. That was the big, big highlight of last week, which is shocking because aside from sunsets I only expected to have food-related highlights in Paris.
When it comes to a few of my favourite things, these will be exclusively food-related (I knew there was a reason why I didn’t have food in the highlights section). There’s this Lebanese place in the Latin Quarter called Topoly, and it, in my opinion, sells the best chicken pitas in Paris. I’ve had the one in Marais that’s renowned as the best place around (for falafels, at least), I’ve made the mistake of trying one of those pitas stuffed with not only meat but French fries, from one of those Greek food stalls in the Latin quarter that all look the same (it was dry and horrible!), and I’ve even enjoyed the spicy chicken kebab pitas by the Oberkampf metro station, but nothing beats Topoly! And why? Well it’s all about the bread! These angels of food service don’t give you a pita out of a bag, oh no! They actually roll the dough out in front of you, and cook it on this giant metal dome before your eyes! The result is the thinnest bread which is truly the key, just like it’s the key for a good thin-crust pizza. I cannot extol its virtues enough; go to Topoly and ask for a “Poulet pita au four”, less than six euros my friends!
This next one is the most unassuming, “couldn’t have predicted that!” kind of thing. It falls into the dessert category, and while you’d think I was getting ready to talk about a velvety chocolate mousse or an irresistible crêpe, you’d be totally wrong. Because I’m talking about…good ol’ American apple crumble. In Paris. I’m dead serious. Beginning at Montmartre, you’ll slowly wander your way down from Sacre Coeur, along the charming cobblestoned streets of Rue Norvin, and you’ll find yourself standing in front of The Consulat. The people-watching opportunities on the terrace are some of the best, and its exterior is the famous subject of many postcards. But no one knows about its’ apple crumble! The dollop of whipped cream, the scoop of vanilla ice cream, the hot apple crumble where the apple’s not sweetened too much (like with all apple pastries in Paris compared to North America)…c’est parfait! Tell them I sent you.
My third favourite thing is the simplest of all, and I discovered it at one of the nearby food markets. It’s at Place Monge in the Latin Quarter, open Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. On my very first visit I was on a singular mission: to find strawberries that weren’t disgustingly over-priced, the way they are at all the chain grocery stores in Paris. Well, not only did I find twice as many as I’d usually buy for two thirds the price, but they came direct from a family farm that grows strawberries and rhubarb. People were snatching up the rhubarb stalks like they somehow contained the secret to eternal youth, but since I’ve only heard of rhubarb being used in rhubarb pie and I don’t have an oven, I refrained. The strawberries though? They smelled magnificent (i.e. I started to open the fridge and untie the bag just to smell them; long hard whiffs. It’s like cocaine, but less side effects).
Once Paris is all said and done, I will certainly compile a formalized list of the best (and maybe the worst?) for the Paris book that emerges out of this experience, but I know that what’s listed here will make the final cut.
I’ll continue to explore and see what I encounter, will report back soon…
According to my logic, someone who inhales strawberry fumes from the fridge is unlikely to be either made of stone or a wailing infant, but something somewhere in between. Delicious post Romi! :)
nothing makes the day better than reading your awesome blogs .”The year of chick “series is something which I can relate too being from a punjabi household .The way you bring out humour in simple things is amazing…..makes one change their mood from sad to happy :)…looking forward to you next book..love xoxo